Who Should Speak?

    March 22, 2006

Robert Scoble is taking some heat for not commenting quickly enough on Microsoft’s decision to delay of Windows Vista by a few weeks.

I am interested less in the delay and more in the community’s desire to hear from the people inside an organization that they share a kinship with when there’s big news. If this sounds familiar, it happened to me.

Increasingly when big corporate news breaks the community doesn’t want to just hear just from the CEO. They want to get the perspective of someone they trust even more, the corporate blogger. This puts pressure on these individuals to comment on every major news announcement that impacts the community – and to do it quickly. The problem is, the bigger the organization, the further away they might be from the epicenter of the news.

All of this leads to a larger issue. Who is a corporate spokesperson? Is it any employee who blogs, the CEO, who? My theory is that every company that has bloggers has multiple “spokespeople.” Some, like the CEO, address shareholders, key customers and more. Others, unit managers, bloggers, evangelists, address one or more communities. Where this gets messy is the media. Both Scoble and Jim Allchin, the exec who manages the Windows Vista project, are viewed by the press as credible spokespeople. The problem herein is that one, Allchin, had more knowledge of this situation than the other, Scoble.

Another sub-point here is timing. When should an employee blogger who does not have first-hand knowledge of a situation blog on the subject? To what degree do they need to become a roving corporate reporter? And last, but not least, should they remain objective perhaps to the chagrin or simply waive the corporate flag? All good questions that I don’t have answers to yet as I am figuring them out in my own organization.

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Steve Rubel is a PR strategist with nearly 16 years of public relations, marketing, journalism and communications experience. He currently serves as a Senior Vice President with Edelman, the largest independent global PR firm.

He authors the Micro Persuasion weblog, which tracks how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the public relations practice.